California’s jubilant players rushed the field and stormed toward pitcher Josh Luko after the final out. Luko smiled, backed up, juked right and then tried to run.
Luko tried to keep his teammates away from him. He treated Carmichaels the same way.
Carmichaels had a little success hitting, but never could really get to Luko. He kept the Mikes at bay, lifted his win total to double digits and helped put California into an elite group of teams.
California defeated Carmichaels, 6-1, Thursday at Consol Energy Park in Washington to win the WPIAL Class A championship. California is 20-0 and is only the sixth undefeated team to win a WPIAL title since the league went to more than one classification in 1979.
The only other undefeated teams since 1979 are Freeport (1979), Canevin (1993), West Allegheny (2007), Elizabeth Forward (2011) and South Park (2013).
Luko is now 10-0, winning a title game that was played out over two days. The game was suspended in the top of the fourth Tuesday night because of rain and storms. California and Carmichaels were deadlocked, 1-1, at the time. As for his postgame moves to avoid the dogpile, Luko said, “I just didn’t want to be at the bottom of that.”
When the game resumed Thursday, Carmichaels had to use a pitcher other than ace Brandon Lawless. Under WPIAL and PIAA pitching rules, a pitcher who works four innings needs two days of rest. Lawless pitched into the fourth when the game was suspended. Luko pitched only three innings Tuesday, which made him eligible to come back Thursday.
Carmichaels coach Scott VanSickle was still perturbed that the fourth inning started on Tuesday.
“There are a lot of things I should say, but I don’t have a comment on it,” said VanSickle. “I feel sorry for Brandon and I feel sorry for the rest of the boys. … We’re a different team when we have Brandon on the mound. The kids rely on him. He’s their leader.”
And Luko leads California. He gave up seven hits and struck out nine in beating Carmichaels (14-3) for the third time this season.
“You have to give Carmichaels credit. They’re a great team,” said Luko. “I think the adrenaline and the excitement just kept me going through all of it.”
California coach Nick Damico said: “[Luko] looked like he was at his best. He usually throws 82-84 [mph] and he looked like he had some pop on his fastball. A lot of guys had late swings on his fastball, so you knew he had his stuff.”
Carmichaels started Billy Bowlen Thursday and he was greeted with three consecutive singles. California’s Jake Columbus drove in a run with one of the singles and Louden Conte followed with a two-run single to made it 4-1. Conte also had an RBI triple Tuesday night.
California added two runs in the sixth inning on Ron Baron’s two-run double.
Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.